Dileepan Mahendran, a 25-year-old from Nagapattinam chose to take to social media to express his frustration against the system - but he opted for a far more controversial method and now bears the grim consequences of it.
On January 31, images of him setting the Indian National flag on fire went viral on Facebook and Whatsapp, but by the time he could take them down, it was too late. Those angered by his act began sleuthing on the internet for information on him and two persons including a private airlines pilot CR Naveenkumar filed a legal complaint against him.
He was arrested on February 1 by the Pulianthope police in Chennai, and is currently in a remand home. But his arrest, according to his lawyer Elangovan, marked the beginning of alleged gruesome police brutality.
According to the lawyer, policemen beat him up through the night of arrest and he was then blindfolded and taken to an undisclosed location. “He was told to stand still by two men - they threatened to kill him if he moved,” said Elangovan. With a broken hand and three fingers fractured, Dileepan was taken to Stanley Hospital where the men had told hospital officials not to provide him adequate treatment because he was a “traitor”, said his lawyer. He then alleged that the police had threatened him to keep quiet about the issue in court.
Assistant Commissioner of Police R Rangaraja at the Pulianthope police station denied all allegations. “We simply acted on a complaint and arrested him. He broke his hand when he was on the run from the police and we made sure he got proper treatment for it,” he said.
“He is very passionate about social issues, and that’s why he did this. Who burns the national flag for the sake of burning it?” asks lawyer Elangovan asked. Dileepan was an active participant in rallies and protests calling for action in the cases of Rohit Vemula and the suicides in Villupuram.
“He had a list of 30 demands that were not met and burnt the flag to turn people’s attention to them,” he said. Human rights activists gheraoed the Pulianthope police department protesting ill-treatment of Dileepan on Monday and were dispersed later.
Elangovan demands that proper medical treatment be administered to Dileepan, and action be taken against policemen who participated in the alleged brutality. “He is not a traitor. He only tried to shift people’s attention to the real problems by making a statement.”